Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society

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The Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society is a group of Oxford and Cambridge sailing Blues and Half Blues. Their influence on UK and international sailing, particularly team racing, has been quite disproportionate to their small numbers of just over 300 people. Since the founding of the Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society (O&CSS) in 1934, members have competed in 13 Sailing Olympics and won eight medals (three gold, three silver, and two bronze).

The Society (O&CSS)[1] was formed in 1934 by Cambridge Half Blue Stewart Morris, along with three of his contemporaries; Morris was later to win a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics. The aim of the Society was "to keep members of the two Clubs together after coming down from the University, and encourage team racing throughout the country, at the same time maintaining a high standard of helmsmanship". The two Clubs referred to are the Oxford University Yacht Club[2] (founded in 1884) and the Cambridge University Cruising Club[3] (founded in 1893).

The Society has always limited its membership; 24 sailors were elected in the first year and since then four to ten of the best sailors from Oxford and Cambridge have been elected each year as they graduate. Occasionally non-blues are elected because of their later achievements in either competitive sailing or sailing administration. Good histories exist of the Society[4] and of the Oxford University Yacht Club (1884–1994[5] and 1994–2009[6]) – available in some libraries and from their author.[7] A brief history of the Cambridge University Cruising Club is maintained on that club's website.[8]

International honours[edit]

Like many sports in the 1930s, Oxford and Cambridge students and alumni competed at the highest sailing levels. In the 1936 Olympic yachting trials, half of the recently-formed Society's membership took part. Since then, Society members, usually after their student days, have continued to compete with success at the highest levels in sailing. In 2011 the top three sailors in the International 14 Dinghy World Championships were all members of the Society, as was the OK dinghy World Champion and Yachtsman of the Year, Nick Craig.[9] The skipper of the winning Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing entry in the 2014/15 Volvo (round-the-world) Ocean Race and two-times Olympic silver medallist, Ian Walker, is a member. Five-times winner of the International 14 World Championships, Archie Massey, is also a member, as is Nick Craig, five-times winner of the OK Dinghy World Championships.

It is unlikely that any UK sailing club, particularly one that has had such a small membership, can boast of such a record. Details of the Society's Olympic involvement are tabled below.

1936 – Berlin/Kiel
Chris Boardman, Miles Bellville, Charles Leaf 6 Metre Gold
Peter Scott Single hander (O-Jolle) Bronze
Stewart Morris Team Manager
Kenneth Preston, Francis Preston 8 Metre
1948 – London/Weymouth
Stewart Morris Swallow Gold
Peter Scott, John Winter Olympic Committee
Kenneth Preston International Jury
1952 – Helsinki
Kenneth Preston 6 Metre
1956 – Melbourne
Jonathan Janson Dragon Bronze
Tom Paxton Reserve
Richard Creagh-Osborne Finn
1960 – Rome/Naples
Jonathan Janson Dragon
Sir Kenneth Preston Team Captain
Richard Creagh-Osborne Reserve
Peter Scott Chairman, International Jury
1964 – Tokyo/Sagami Bay
No participation – but see footnote re Jonathan Janson
1968 – Mexico/Acapulco
Iain MacDonald-Smith Flying Dutchman Gold
1972 – Munich/Kiel
Simon Tait Dragon
David Wilkins (IRL) Tempest
Iain Macdonald-Smith Reserve
1976 – Montreal/Kingston
Phil Crebbin 470
Iain Macdonald-Smith Soling
David Wilkins (IRL) Tempest
1980 – Moscow/Tallinn
David Wilkins (IRL) Flying Dutchman Silver
1984 – Los Angeles
No participation – but see footnote re Jonathan Janson
1988 – Seoul/Pusan
Roger Yeoman Flying Dutchman
David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy (IRL) Flying Dutchman
1992 – Barcelona
David Wilkins, Peter Kennedy (IRL) Flying Dutchman
Iain Macdonald-Smith Selector
1996 – Atlanta/Savannah
Ian Walker 470 Silver
Barry Parkin Soling
2000 – Sydney
Ian Walker Star Silver
Barry Parkin Soling
2004 – Athens
Ian Walker Yngling Coach
Barry Parkin Selector
2008 – Beijing/Qingdao
Chris Atkins Chairman, Selectors
2012 – London/Weymouth
Annie Lush Women's Match Racing
Chris Atkins Chairman, Selectors
David Wilkins, Jo Lucas Race Team

Jonathan Janson, having competed in 1956 and 1960, was also involved in most of the subsequent Olympic regattas up to 1992 as a Vice President of the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU) – now World Sailing. His duties including overseeing the pre-Olympic regattas, International Jury service, and other roles.

The following sailors have represented the UK in the biennial World Team Racing Championships.

Name Team Championship Result
Amanda Best (now Hampson) 1995 – West Kirby, UK Gold
Ed Smith 1998 – Miami, USA Silver
Dan Quinn 1998 – Miami, USA Silver
Chris Lynham (Killed in a motorcycle accident that same year) 1998 – Miami, USA Silver
Rob Sherrington 2001 – Lake Brno, Czech Republic 5th
Rob Sherrington 2003 – Auckland, New Zealand Silver
Rob Sherrington 2005 – Newport, USA Bronze
Richard Guy 2001 – Lake Brno, Czech Republic 5th
Richard Guy 2003 – Auckland, New Zealand Silver
Tom Hebbert 2001 – Lake Brno, Czech Republic 5th
Tom Hebbert 2007 – Gandia, Spain Silver

Team racing[edit]

While the Society's involvement with the Olympics is the most public testimony of its contribution to sailing, it is the discipline of team racing that is at the Society's heart. A good general history of team racing is available on the Wikipedia article on team racing.

Founder Stewart Morris had experienced the occasional team race in his youth on the Norfolk Broads, where the professional skippers raced against their amateur owners from time to time. When he went up to Cambridge in October 1927, he sailed in three Varsity Match against Oxford (1928–1930), and experienced intense team racing competition, fuelled by traditional Light Blue–Dark Blue rivalry. The sailing Varsity Match was first held in 1912, but was interrupted between 1915 and 1919 by the First World War and in 1940 by the Second World War. Over the years, the standard and tactics of the team racing improved considerably, and great rivalry existed between the University teams. A fuller history of the match will be found on the O&CSS website.[10]

Stewart's desire to bring together members of both teams to continue team racing, and to promote this aspect of the sport, was the reason for forming the Society. By organising matches against other sailing clubs, the Society began to promote team racing and, in time, facilitated the development of events such as the West Kirby Sailing Club Wilson Trophy.[11] That event is now the single most prestigious open team racing event in the UK, with an international entry and reputation. The Society's vital role is referred to in the record of West Kirby's initial planning meeting: "Support would have to be gained from the Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society, which was the most important body sponsoring team racing.", and (Sir) Cyril Clarke, one of the three West Kirby helmsmen who provided the stimulus for the first 'Wilson' event,[12] was a member.

Since then, team racing has grown both in popularity and skill levels, with the sport becoming international and a Team Racing World Championships[13][14] starting in 1995. The UK Royal Yachting Association and UK Team Racing Association (UKTRA)[15] actively promotes team racing and holds an annual UK Championship and Ladies Championship. There is also an annual British Universities Sailing Association[16] Team Racing Championship, contested after several rounds of regional qualifiers. UK schools are also active with annual championships organised via the British Schools Dinghy Racing Association,[17] and the National Schools Sailing Association.[18] Society members play a leading role in the organisation of all these events, and the Society's Ladies team won the UK National Ladies Championships four times during the five years 2004—2008, and again in 2013. Furthermore, Bruce Hebbert, the instigator of the European 2K Keel Boat Team Racing Series,[19] is a member.[12]

Vintage port[edit]

One less serious aspect of the Club is also worth commenting on. In 1936, a member donated 48 bottles of vintage port for consumption at the annual dinner. Grateful members subsequently elected him President for a term, and in 1946 the Society started investing its own funds in vintage port. This ‘liquid’ investment strategy has proved most successful. Excellent port is available at annual dinners at extremely low cost, the Society's reserves have steadily appreciated, and bottles of port are occasionally sold to provide funds to buy newer vintages for future generations to enjoy.


  1. ^ [1], Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society (O&CSS) website
  2. ^ [2], Oxford University Yacht Club (OUYC) website
  3. ^ [3], Cambridge University Cruising Club (CUCrC) website
  4. ^ Atkins, Jeremy (2009). 75 Years of Port [History of O&CSS], Jeremy Atkins, Southam CV47 9PF. ISBN 978-0-9509179-2-4
  5. ^ Atkins, Jeremy (1984). A Hundred Years of Sailing at Oxford University, Jeremy Atkins, Leamington Spa CV32 6EE. ISBN 0-9509179-0-7
  6. ^ Atkins, Jeremy (2009). 25 More Years of Sailing at Oxford University, Jeremy Atkins, Southam CV47 9PF. ISBN 978-0-9509179-1-7
  7. ^ Jeremy Atkins, Thorn Villa, Thorn Way, Long Itchington, Southam, Warwickshire CV47 9PF, United Kingdom - jeremy at bjatkins dot demon dot co dot uk
  8. ^ [4] History page of the Cambridge University Cruising Club's website
  9. ^ [5], Yachts & Yachting article on Nick Craig's successes
  10. ^ [6], Varsity Match history page of the Oxford & Cambridge Sailing Society (O&CSS) website
  11. ^ [7], Wilson Trophy website
  12. ^ a b Team racing#History of Team Racing in the US, UK, and Ireland, History Section of Wikipedia Team Racing Article
  13. ^ [8] Team Racing World Championship history
  14. ^ [9] Team Racing World Championship past results
  15. ^ [10] UK Team Racing association website
  16. ^ [11], British Universities Sailing Association (BUSA) website.
  17. ^ [12], British Schools Dinghy Racing Association (BSDRA) website
  18. ^ [13], UK National Schools Sailing Association (NSSA) website
  19. ^ [14] 2K Team Racing website